I am a dreamer guy from the heart of Europe, from a country not many people are familiar with — Slovakia. This is a story about how I chased my dreams and how one of them got destroyed.
Goldee was a project I started realizing based on my dreams from childhood. As a 9-year-old boy, I was designing in my head and on paper some intelligent things, such as a vacuum cleaner that would clean the house instead of me, a bicycle that would make fresh popcorn, or a house that would cater to me. They were all fantasies of a child but I didn’t give up on them and I was moving closer towards these projects throughout my life.
Since I knew that my dream would necessarily involve Artificial Intelligence (AI), I applied to an engineering & technology university and earned a degree in AI. In my senior year, I was ready to start my own project. So in 2011, with the help of my advisor at the university, I did a research of the most intelligent houses in the world. I was shocked to find out that even though there were many interesting technologies, there was a big gap in the lighting sector. And Goldee was at its beginning…
I started with no experience, no money, no network. The only thing I had was my passion for my dream that was awaiting to become real. I found other people who shared the same passion and we started working on Goldee together. My parents provided us their old apartment where I grew up and where I was drawing the first designs of ‘my smart products,’ and this apartment became our first office. We spent all our time there — we worked, slept, talked and spent our free time behind the same four walls for more than a year. We were fortunate to find an angel investor who fell in love with our idea. The beginnings were difficult but also very exciting.
In 2013 we were drawing our first product — the Goldee App, which consumed a lot of beers, walks, debates, and also many sleepless nights. It was hard work but also a lot of joy. It turned out that people loved the Goldee app as much as we did, which was incredibly satisfying. We moved to a real office, started working on a new smart light controller, and began preparing for our crowdfunding campaign. We achieved what we set out to achieve — to raise 100k in 25 days in order to have a market proof for VC investors to join our journey.
I believed in our dream until the very last day, even though we were gradually running out of money. We were forced to think of something to save the company and I had to let go half of the team in order to prolong our existence. However, the cruel situation we got into due to the lack of funds influenced the moral of the team and people started to be emotional and stressed out. Some members couldn’t accept the fact that they were supposed to leave while others were staying. The stress and disappointment regarding the downsizing of the team escalated into a nasty situation, when some of the team members started manipulating others with lies, attacking and eventually hacking our server, spreading lies in the media… I became a national failure in one day. The manipulated story of Goldee’s end went viral. It became the most read article in the biggest Slovak economic media, it appeared on the national TV news, and a lot of people started to talk rubbish about me, even though nobody from the public knew the true story.
It was a very tough situation to handle, especially with no funds to support our venture and the emotional explosion of some of the team members. We had put all our money into development since after our successful campaign we didn’t once hesitate that we couldn’t raise more funds. We were just a few months before starting the production. Despite the fact that we were so close, we could not move ahead, since we were still not getting any new investment.
After all the devastating events, I was forced to admit the end of Goldee, which was not easy. It was a long and exciting journey to see Goldee being born and having its first successes, and it was incredibly sad to see it die, especially in such a painful way.
Now that I see it all in retrospect, I believe that this experience taught me a lot about business and about people. One of my mentors told me after all this happened: “You just grew ten years within one month — professionally and personally.” In all that turmoil I was forced to take a step back and that enabled me to see it all with a certain distance. I have learned many lessons the painful way but I still have a lot of optimism and hope. I still am a dreamer. This experience didn’t change my personality, it just shaped my character and made me more mature. Now I have had an opportunity to look back to and see what we’ve done right and what we’ve done wrong, and view it all from a new perspective. I learned so much and I want to share what I learned with you. My goal is to turn my bad experience into something useful for the rest of you.